Menu logoclose icon

Bowdoin College BCMA Logo Museum of Art

No marks or inscriptions identified for this object
    • James Bowdoin III( Collector, Boston) - 1811.
    • Bowdoin College Museum of Art( Museum, Brunswick, Maine) 1811- . Bequest
    • Old Master Drawings at Bowdoin College
      • Bowdoin College Museum of Art. ( 5/17/1985 - 7/7/1985)
      • Clark Art Institute. ( 9/14/1985 - 10/27/1985)
      • University of Kansas. ( 1/19/1986 - 3/2/1986)
      • Art Gallery of Ontario. ( 5/17/1986 - 6/29/1986)
    • Old Master Drawings from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art
      • Timken Museum of Art. ( 5/13/2005 - 8/14/2005)
    		

    The drawing was first attributed to Charles Mellin by Doris Wild in an article published in 1967, but neither the BCMA nor David P. Becker were aware of the connection to the artist until after 1985. Thus, the drawing was classified as an anonymous seventeenth-century Italian sheet in Becker’s catalogue. Most recently, the attribution to Mellin has been accepted by Philippe Malgouyres and included in his 2007 catalogue on the artist, the first dedicated to Mellin. Wild has dated the sheet to around 1635.

    Active in Rome at the same time as Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Mellin’s drawings have often been confused with his contemporary (Malgouyres 2007, 221). The majority of drawings ascribed to Mellin are pen and ink and brown wash and employ large areas of wash or sections focusing on the outlines of figures. His figures are less sculptural than Poussin’s, seeming to float on the surface of the page (Malgouyres 2007, 221). Additionally, most of his surviving drawings are finished composition studies rather than initial sketches or ideas.

    The subject of the Bowdoin drawing is the meeting between the aged hermits Saints Anthony and Paul in the desert. The bird at center is a raven appearing with a loaf of bread to feed the saints. No known painting by Mellin exists of the subject, but a second drawing of the same subject is now in the Biblioteca Reale in Turin (fig. 1).

    Malgouyres has connected the Bowdoin drawing to a sheet sold at an auction in Paris in 1791 as Poussin, but there is little evidence for this correlation other than the title of the drawing. If this drawing was indeed sold in Paris, then it was likely later purchased by James Bowdoin III during his diplomatic mission from 1805 to 1808.

    Sarah Cantor

    References:

    Malgouyres, Philippe. “Charles Mellin dessinateur.” In Charles Mellin: un Lorrain entre Rome et Naples, edited by Philippe Malgouyres, 221-33. Paris: Somogy, 2007.

    Images:

    Fig. 1: Charles Mellin The Hermit Saints Paul and Anthony, ca. 1635, pen and brown ink and brown wash, Biblioteca Reale, Turin, 16.94

    Commentary credited to David P. Becker (or not otherwise captioned) appeared in his catalogue Old Master Drawings at Bowdoin College (Brunswick: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 1985).